Severe tooth decay the leading reason Canadian preschoolers have day surgery each year (CIHI)

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Treatment of Preventable Dental Cavities in Preschoolers: A Focus on Day Surgery Under General Anesthesia
October 17, 2013—Dental surgery to treat cavities and severe tooth decay accounts for about one-third of all day surgery operations for preschoolers—putting thousands of kids between the ages of 1 and 5 under general anesthesia each year.

A new study from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) shows that each year roughly 19,000 children have dental surgery. Their condition is so severe that they need general anesthesia, and they are under for an average of 82 minutes.

“It is evident that there are disparities in young children’s oral health in Canada,” says Dr. Bob Schroth, Assistant Professor, Department of Preventive Dental Science and Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at the University of Manitoba. “These findings reinforce the need for improved access to early dental visits and effective prevention. Early childhood oral health sets the foundation for one’s dental health throughout life.”

CIHI’s report highlights that tooth decay is a condition that can be halted at any stage through the use of fillings or varnishes, with extractions serving as the last resort.

Kids from some populations are more likely to require dental surgery

Treatment of Preventable Dental Cavities in Preschoolers: A Focus on Day Surgery Under General Anesthesia found that rates for dental day surgery were close to nine times as high for children from neighbourhoods with high (versus low) Aboriginal populations.

Also, rates were almost four times as high for children from the least affluent neighbourhoods, compared with the most affluent ones. Surgery rates were just more than three times as high for kids from rural (versus urban) neighbourhoods.

These numbers represent only the tip of the iceberg

CIHI’s report shows that these day surgery operations cost $21.2 million each year across Canada, excluding Quebec. This represents a fraction of the true cost because it does not include the costs of care providers, such as dentists and anesthesiologists, or travel.

Furthermore, the report focuses on surgery that occurred in hospitals, so children who had their surgery in dentists’ offices or community clinics were not included.

“Severe dental problems can be painful and affect a child’s self-esteem and quality of life. Many factors can contribute to dental health, such as fluoride levels in local water and timely access to dental care, but cavities and decay are still highly preventable,” says Anne McFarlane, Vice President, Western Canada and Developmental Initiatives, at CIHI. “Programs and coordinated approaches to address and promote good dental health can help focus efforts on reducing the need for dental surgery among young children across Canada.”